Upton in the Herald Palladium: Help is on the way in opioid epidemic fight
By Rep. Fred Upton
It seems like everyone I meet these days is in some way impacted by the tragic, ongoing opioid abuse epidemic. We see it every day here in Southwest Michigan.
The statistics are as startling as they are heartbreaking: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates more than 33,000 Americans died from opioid abuse in 2015, including nearly 2,000 from Michigan. That is 10 times as many deaths because of overdoses as there were 15 years ago. Sadly, these numbers continue to surge.
This is why I was so pleased when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week the first round of grants to help states and territories combat this epidemic. These grants will be used specifically for strengthening public health surveillance, advancing the practice of pain management, improving access to treatment and recovery services, targeting availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs, and supporting cutting-edge research.
Here in Michigan we will be on the receiving end of more than $16 million in grant money. These federal funding grants were made available as part of our bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act that President Obama signed into law at the end of 2016. We fought hard to include this $1 billion in total funding to aid in this public health crisis. Now we’re delivering.
The administration should be applauded for getting this first round of funding to states in an expedited manner. In addition to this needed funding, I’m also proud to support the new White House Commission aimed at combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis. In fact, just this week I participated in a productive session with the Commission at the White House. During this meeting, stakeholders were able to share knowledge, experience, and further legislative ideas with the Commission. The Commission will issue a formal report in the next couple months. I look forward to engaging with the administration, the Commission, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we continue working together to end this scourge.
Our efforts to address this crisis date back to 2015. We started with bipartisan hearings and roundtables where we listened to experts, stakeholders, individuals in recovery, and families as to what we in Congress could do to stem the tide of this epidemic and help those in real need. What we heard was eye-opening. One area of agreement was that these dangerous drugs must not get in the hands of our kids. Nearly 800,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 tried opioids for the first time within the past year. We also agreed that we should not unjustly penalize patients who legally use opioids to alleviate chronic pain.
At the end of the day, we all realize that the opioid epidemic will not come to an end without real solutions. This important federal funding provides a concrete path forward so that we can turn the tide on this unacceptable public health crisis.
We owe this effort to the past, present, and sadly, future victims of this epidemic – our neighbors, friends, and family, across every part of the country and every demographic group. To those in the midst of this fight: Help is on the way.